Suits For Big Men

Suits for Big Gentlemen & How To Wear Them Elegantly

Most of the time, modern fashion is oriented around youthful, slim models. However, many bespoke suit wearers are more seasoned and don’t have time to hit the gym 6 days a week. Regardless of your build, you can certainly look dapper even if you have a little bit of meat on your bones. Recently, I came across a series of photographs from German bespoke tailors and there were quite a few men in splendidly fitting suits who were anything but slim. Today, I would like to share ways to dress elegantly even though you may not have a runway-ready figure.

Fit of a Big Man’s Suit

Maybe even more so than for other men, fit is of great importance to men with a heavier build. As you can imagine, off the rack suits rarely provide a good fit for stockier men, leading to figure exaggeration rather than flattery.

Although there are many suits in the Big & Tall departments, the garments never fit because the jacket sizing gets gradually bigger in all the key measurements, even though most men don’t tend to gain weight uniformly across their figure. However, your arms and torso length will always remain the same size! If the sleeve would be the only issue, it could be shortened, but the length of the jacket determines the positioning of the pockets and the buttonholes – which can’t be repositioned.

Reiner Calmund - Big Man in Three Piece Suit

Reiner Calmund – Big Man in Three Piece Suit

Therefore, you cannot just shorten a suit jacket because it will always look unbalanced. In addition, the shoulders are often heavily padded,

In a Nutshell: Suit Tips For Big Men

  • I. Pay attention to fit and don’t buy of the rack
  • II. Choose single breasted over double breasted suits
  • III. Wear trousers for suspenders and skip the belt
  • IV. Go with pleats and decide against cuffs
  • V. Wear solid colors or subtle patterns
  • VI.Try a wearing a vest
  • VII.Wear medium sized tie knots and skip cutaway shirts

making portly men look like bulky American football players rather than elegant gentlemen. The correct shoulder width is of utmost importance, so the jacket’s shoulder extends just slightly above your natural shoulder and not by an inch. Of course, on the opposite end of the spectrum, one should also avoid wearing garments that are too tight, which is equally as unflattering.

Of course, a bespoke suit would be the ideal solution, but opt for a made to measure model if bespoke is too costly. This should at least provide you with a better fitting garment than off the rack and today, there are a number of suit manufacturers who offer made to measure product at haberdasheries and online.

Cut of a Portly Suit

The jacket should preferably be single breasted with notched lapels. This silhouette will suit you much better because a double breasted jacket will make you look wider and it will inevitably gap in the front. Two or three buttons are probably ideal. Both skinny (7cm) and wide (14cm) lapels are too exxagerated. Try to find something classic, between 8-10cm, so they are proportional to your figure and your face.

Choose either side vents or no vents; a middle vent is for sporting jackets, and it will likely gap unfavorably, leaving your rear exposed.

Ideally, the trousers of a suit for heavier gentleman should be cut so it sits on the waist. Belts are very much useless because they will not be able to keep the pants up. Instead, use suspenders. They allow for a little more room, so you can comfortably sit down and your trousers will always stay in place, avoiding the awkward need to hike them up after sitting. Moreover, I suggest you wear pleats because they provide more room and hide your legs.

One way to really create a slimmer look is to wear a vest. Not only is it more formal than a 2 piece suit, but it will also hide and smooth your middle section. Like the jacket, I recommend single breasted waistcoats only.

Colors & Patterns

Dark solids in navy and charcoal will certainly work well, just like with most other men. Overall, it is certainly a smart idea to dress more classically with a white or light blue shirts and a simple tie, however you are not limited to these few colors. More so than for slimmer gents, it is important for you not to draw attention to areas you’d like to reduce with ostentatious colors and horizontal stripes.

You can wear patterns, but do so in a subtle manner. Skip the wide chalk stripes and choose a subtle pin stripe instead. Also, a glencheck suit is ok, but choose a fabric with no or a subtle overplaid with a bigger pattern. This will make you look interesting and the larger scale harmonizes with your body type.

Shirts & Ties

The shirt collar should fit tightly around your neck, but make sure that you do not create an artificial double chin. Shy away from wide cutaway collars because they only accentuate width.

Alternatively, try to look for classic turn down collar shapes that are not too small. Choose a medium sized tie knot; if it is as little as Prince Charles’, it will disappear next to your head. A double Windsor, for example, will accentuate the fullness of your face.

Prince Charles Tie Knot

Prince Charles Tie Knot

A four in hand or Nicky knot will be just fine. Cufflinks are fine, but more importantly, ensure that your cuff fits firmly around your wrist and that you show about half an inch of cuff, or slightly more, because otherwise your arms will look too short.

Stockier Men in Elegant Suits

This gentleman looks splendid in his three piece suit, hat, gloves and umbrella. The cuffless trousers fit his appearance and overall, I think he did a great job despite his horizontally striped tie. Note that he is wearing a contrasting vest. The pointed shoes were a general fashion of the 1960’s, and had nothing to do with his stature.

Helmut Kohl in Bespoke Suit by Volkmar Arnulf

Helmut Kohl in Bespoke Suit by Volkmar Arnulf

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl is very tall and heavy, but his Berlin bespoke tailor Volkmar Arnulf understood the need to tailor suits for him that made him look respectable, authoritative and statesmanlike.

Just like with the larger patterns, it may be a good idea to opt for slightly larger flaps and buttons in order to keep a look proportional. However, this is something you will probably only get if you visit a bespoke tailor.

As you can see, all the men pictured wear single breasted suits – never double breasted and most wear trousers without cuffs. Some might argue that heavy chaps should never wear cuffs. Personally, I agree with a few exceptions, but you are definitely on the safe side if you skip them.

If you pose for a picture, make sure to stand slightly sideways and you will look immediately lighter as a result.

If I forgot something, please let me know and I am always happy to get feedback.

7 replies
  1. Gernot_Freiherr_von_Donnerbalken says:

    I may ( yet..) not be of the built described in this article and therefore will only keep the tips in mind just in case, but the pictures of these gentlemen are the best proof that the tips in this article must have quite some truth in them.
    Aswell, the pictures may serve as an example what a tailor’s art is able to. Therefore I must thank you for this article. Greetings and keep up the elegance.

  2. belgraviadave says:

    Of the “men”, only Mitterrand looks well dressed. The others look like their coats have been cut for slimmer men and their trousers cut for teenagers. Kohl look dressed for brothel ownership.

Comments are closed.